ZEISS OTUS 28mm f1.4
You can see the challenges in this category, can’t you? At one end is Canon’s LED-equipped macro lens for its EF-M mirrorless mount – as brilliant a piece of lateral thinking as you’ll see anywhere – and at the other the towering performance of Zeiss’s Otus series 28mm… quite possibly the best prime lens in the world. Then there’s two brilliant examples of why the Micro Four Thirds format is the most exciting place to be right now in terms of what’s possible with lenses – one a supertelephoto and one a fast wideangle. And proving it doesn’t always need Zeiss to hold its hand when it comes to designing and building high-performance lenses, Sony’s first G Master creation for the FE mount. The Canon EF-M 28mm f3.5 Macro is about to come into its own now that there’s something really interesting to put it on – the EOS M5 – and it not only has a pair of built-in LED lights (which can be used separately), but also an optical image stabiliser which is very handy when shooting at 1:1. If we awarded a runners-up prize, the Canon would get it. However, it was a brilliance of another sort that won through in this category, namely the optical performance of Zeiss’s Otus 28mm f1.4. The Otus series lenses are works of art – both outside and inside – and the good news is that they can be enjoyed by the users of both Canon and Nikon D-SLRs. Externally, the tapering barrels look gorgeous while the flush-fitting focusing collars are really just Zeiss’s engineers showing off. Zeiss modestly calls the 28mm model “the world’s best wide-angle lens”, and we think they’re pretty spot on. The 28mm focal length is often overlooked in favour of 24mm, but it’s actually a lot more versatile while still being nicely wide-angle. It’s also enabled Zeiss to design a 16-element optical construction which delivers a near-flawless image quality. Centre-to-corner sharpness is exceptional even at f1.4, and there are no issues with axial chromatic aberrations, spherical aberrations or distortion. Flare and ghosting are also well suppressed and while there’s some vignetting wide open, it’s only slight and eliminated by f2.8. While this lens is razor sharp, it also produces beautifully smooth out-of-focus effects so you can make full creative use of the super shallow depth-of-field at f1.4. And, of course, f1.4 also extends your low-light shooting opportunities so the Otus 28mm compliments its performance with a surprising degree of flexibility for a wide-angle prime. It’s pricey, of course, but it is the best so, if money is no object, you really shouldn’t settle for anything less.
PRIME LENS – THE FINALISTS Canon EF-M 28mm f3.5 Macro IS STM Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 300mm f4.0 PRO Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f1.4 ASPH Sony FE 85mm f1.4 G Master Zeiss Otus 28mm f1.4.